It’s hard not to fall in love with a tropical island. For me, there’s nothing more relaxing than laying down in the warm sand and gazing at warm crystal blue waters. The sight of the beach always makes my heart skip a beat. I am a beach bum, so I believe I can speak with some authority on this subject. When it comes to discussing this topic, Kauai is my number one choice for the most spectacular, pristine beaches. With over 50 miles of sandy shores, Kauai is blessed with more beaches per mile than any of the other Hawaiian islands.
Each beach has its own unique qualities. Some of Kauai’s beaches are accessible only by trail, others only by sea, but most are accessible by car. Some are great for snorkeling and scuba diving. Others are great for surfing, or swimming, but all are beautiful and can be equally enjoyed by those who visit them. Here are the top 7 beaches in Kauai to park your chair and beach umbrella:
Tunnels Beach (Ha‘ena Beach Park) is my most favorite one. It has a very romantic atmosphere and is never crowded. Even if all you do is sit on the beach, you’ll be happy here. The scenery around you is unrivaled, with green mountains as a backdrop and turquoise water. Snorkeling here is the best on the island during the calm, summer months. In winter, the water is too rough for swimming, but it’s great for surfers who line up on the outside break.
The beach has only one lifeguard on duty, so if you venture further away on the long stretch of sand you are on your own. Parking is small and it fills out fast, so you have to come early in the morning. We usually park on the side of the road, but even those spots may be hard to find on week-ends.
Ke’e Beach is one of the most visited beaches on Kauai and is always crowded. It is located at the north end of the island where the highway ends, so it’s literally located at the end of the road. Ke’e is the last beach accessible by car on the north shore. The famous, gorgeous and treacherous Kalalau Trail begins right here, at the western end of the beach. This is a gentle ocean lagoon with very shallow water which makes Ke’e one of the best snorkeling spots on the island.
The water is very calm here most of the time, creating the ideal conditions for snorkeling. Outside the coral reef is the best place to see turtles and big tuna fish. To the left, the beach ends in the mountain drop down, but to the right it stretches for miles and miles making it perfect for waling and picture taking. The views of the Napali Coast from here are gorgeous. Parking is always a problem here. There is a small lot that fills up very quickly in the morning. You can park along the road in a few spots, but there is not too much room there either.
Hanalei Bay Beach is picture perfect: a huge bay with a rim of waterfalls on the distant mountains. The bay is gorgeous! So tranquil and relaxing. There is something for everyone here —surf, kayak, stand-up paddle board, swim, sail, sunbathe, or walk. Underwater there is mostly sand bottom, so the beach is not good for snorkeling. Like most North Shore beaches in Kauai, Hanalei has very calm waters in summer, but strong currents and powerful waves in winter. Here the house where George Clooney did the great 2011 movie, The Descendants.
Kahili Beach If you’re looking for remote, you came to the right place. This is a beautiful secluded beach located on the oceanside of the Kilauea Bay, where the Kilauea Stream meets the ocean. The beach is very beautiful and is popular for paddle boarding, fishing and kayaking. The water is murky sometimes, although calm.
The stream hits a sand bar as it reaches the sea and forms a large pool good for swimming. The fresh water spot is good to rinse off after riding some waves or kayaking. We usually rent kayaks and take a trip up the Kilauea Stream. It’s a nice and easy short paddle.
Anini Beach is a gorgeous blue lagoon with golden sand and shallow water along the north shore of Kauai. It has one of the longest and widest reefs in Hawaii, protecting it from the deeper ocean. The 5-6 feet of warm water make Anini the best snorkeling location on the island. Because the water is so calm, this place is one of the island’s safest beaches for swimming, windsurfing, and kayaking.
The beach is relatively secluded and less crowded than some of the other Kauai beaches, but there are many locals that come here, especially on week-ends. Anini has parking and campground facilities.
Kalapaki Beach is a crescdent-shaped beach in the Nawiliwili Bay, adjacent to the famous Kauai Marriott. It is one of the most peaceful beaches on Kauai, with calm breezes and moderate waves that make it very inviting for swimming, kayaking and paddle boarding.
You can take surf lessons here, catamaran cruises, or play beach volleyball. Next to it are the Kauai Lagoons –40 acres of freshwater that serve as a sanctuary for exotic wildlife. One of Kauai’s best restaurants (and our favorite) Duke’s Canoe Club is on Kalapaki Beach.
Poipu Beach I saved this beach for the last because it’s a place like no other. No, it’s not the color of the sand, or the clarity of the water. Poipu Beach is very special because it enjoys the best climate on the island. Traditionally, the South Shore is considered the “sunny side” of the island, while the northern area receives a fair amount of rain. I remember a vacation in Kauai when it rained every single day, from morning till night for 7 days. There was no way you could go to the beach, or do any outdoor activity. So driving around the island in search of a dry spot, we discovered that at Poipu beach it was sunny every single day. So we drove there for the rest of the week and came home with a tan.
Another thing that makes this beach special is the wild life population. Almost every time we go there, there are either monk seals or turtles on the beach, or both. You wouldn’t expect these shy animals to mingle with the humans when there are so many hidden beaches around where they could rest in peace. But they seem like Poipu Beach and don’t mind the attention.
Poipu Beach is considered among the safest in Hawaii, with a lifeguard on duty seven days a week. Swimming, boogie boarding, surfing, snorkeling and scuba diving are all found within a one mile stretch of coastline. The beach is small and crowded, but there are plenty of shaded areas under trees and pavilions. There are showers and bathrooms and plenty of parking. The water is beautiful. There are a ton of fish to view when snorkeling.